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Fed chair says ‘some ways to go’ with rate hikes, ‘ultimate level’ to be higher

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Nov 03, 2022 - 02:18 AM

ANKARA (AA) – US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said Wednesday there are “some ways to go” with rate hikes and the “ultimate level” of increases will be higher than previously expected.

“At some point…it will become prudent to slow the pace of increases. There is significant uncertainty around that level of interest rates. Even so, we still have some ways to go, and incoming data since our last meeting suggest that the ultimate level of interest rates will be higher than previously expected,” he said during a news conference after the conclusion of the Fed’s two-day meeting.

“Our decisions will depend on the totality of incoming data and their implications for the outlook of economic activity,” he said.

The Fed raised its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points for the fourth consecutive time to fight record inflation, carrying the target range for the federal funds rate to between 3.75% and 4% — its highest since January 2008.

Investors and economists wanted to see hints in a post-meeting statement about whether the Fed would lift its foot off the gas in rate hikes.

Powell said the latest consumer inflation figures since the previous meeting on Sept. 21 “suggest to me that we may move to higher (interest rate) levels than we thought at the time during the September meeting.”

The chair, however, reiterated that it will become appropriate at some point to slow the pace of increases as the Fed approaches the level of rates that will be sufficient to bring inflation to its 2% goal.

“Financial conditions have tightened significantly in response to our policy actions, and we are seeing the effects on demand in the most interest rate-sensitive sectors in the economy, such as housing. It will take time, however, for the full effects of the monetary restraint to be realized, especially on inflation,” he said.

Powell emphasized that it is too early to consider putting a brake on rate increases.

“It is very premature, in my view, to think about or be talking about pausing our rate hikes. We have a ways to go,” he said.

He said members of the Federal Open Market Committee believe there is a need for ongoing rate increases.

“We have some ground left to cover here, and cover we will,” he said. “The question of when to moderate the pace of increases is much less important than the question of how high to raise rates and how long to keep the monetary policy restrictive, which will be our principle focus.”

Powell, however, hinted that the Fed could soften from its hikes of 75 basis points in upcoming meetings and pointed to the possibility of hikes of 50 basis points in December and January.

“As we come closer to that level (of interest rates) and move further into restrictive territory, the question of speed becomes less important,” he said. “So that time is coming, and it may come as soon as the next meeting or the one after that. No decision has been made.”

After Powell’s comments, the probability of the Fed raising rates by 50 basis points stood at 56%, according to the FedWatch Tool provided by US-based global markets company the Chicago Mercantile Exchange Group. The probability of a hike of 75 basis points was 40%.

The aggressive monetary tightening has been raising fears that high interest rates could cause a recession in the US and global economies.

Powell said it is still “possible” to achieve a soft landing — in which a central bank enters a monetary tightening cycle to bring inflation down but avoids a recession.

“I would say the path has narrowed (for a soft landing) over the course of the last year,” he said, and the reason behind that is inflation has not come down to the extent that the Fed had hoped.

“No one knows whether there is going to be a recession or not, and if so, how that will be,” he said.

After the latest rate hike decision, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Fed is an independent agency and the administration respects its independence.

“The Fed actions help bring inflation down. As mortgage rates increase, demand in the housing market should continue to cool, inventory should increase, which should have the effect of lowering housing inflation,” she said in a press briefing.

She said this is part of a transition to stable economic growth, adding: “Stable and steady growth will lower inflation. This is the kind of economy that delivers for our working families. That’s how we see the work of the Fed.”

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